Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Good Customer Service?

I made an error in paying my last Chase bill. I was short one penny. Rather than go through the hassle of writing a check for that amount, I called Chase on the assumption they would credit my account for the penny. After all, I had just come from CVS where I was very easily able to convince the clerk to take $35.25 in payment for an item costing $35.27. I guess Chase is in tough shape, as I wound up paying them the penny by allowing them to withdraw it from my bank account.

How often will I use my Chase card in the future?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Waste of Time

Twenty or so years ago I subscribed to Vanity Fair. True, it had a fair amount of fashion articles, but it also had a couple of substantive articles in each issue. However, things changed and I ceased my subscription. About a month ago I got an e-mail from them offering a deal for five issues; I took it. I got my first copy yesterday and the magazine has become a fashion magazine exclusively. Just about every article has a photograph(s) of the subject(s) of the article. Each photograph includes a description of what the subjects are wearing. It still has more pages of advertisements than articles, but the articles have no substance other than fashion. My next four issues will go right to my waste basket.

Changing Cow's Food

C

Monday, May 20, 2019

Doing Good

Calculating Health Risks of Air Pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to change the way it calculates the future health risks of air pollution. It will use what they are calling the Affordable Clean Energy rule. But the methods used in this rule have never been peer-reviewed and are not scientifically sound. It relies on unfounded medical assumptions and discards more than a decade of peer-reviewed E.P.A. methods for understanding the health hazards linked to the fine particulate matter produced by burning fossil fuels.

The rule would slightly improve the efficiency of coal plants and allow older coal plants to remain in operation longer and result in an increase of particulate matter.

Are derivatives still a problem?

You may remember that they were a big factor in the Great Recession. One of the major reasons why was that trading in them was under the table so that the banks did not have sufficient resources to absorb potential losses. Well, as the following chart shows, trading in them is still not exactly crystal clear.

Truly big banks

Did you know that Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo have 50% of the assets of the 5,406 FDIC-insured commercial banks and savings institutions in America? That's what the House Financial Services Committee concluded in their latest report, “As of December 31, 2018, there were 5,406 FDIC-insured commercial banks and savings institutions that held a combined $17.9 trillion in assets…”.  The Committee then notes that there are eight mega banks in the U.S. “that hold a combined $11.1 trillion in assets, comprising roughly 50 percent of domestic banking assets.”

It concludes that these six banks “have engaged in—and continue to engage in—a crime spree that spans the violation of almost every law and rule imaginable. Taking the breadth and depth of their illegal conduct as a whole, the six biggest banks in the country look like criminal enterprises with RAP sheets that would make most career criminals green with envy. That was the case not just before the 2008 crash, but also during and after the crash and their lifesaving bailouts…In fact, the number of cases against the banks has actually increased relative to the pre-crash era.”

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A major problem with Chinese pigs

Millions of them have died and are still dying from African swine fever. The nation’s stock of live pigs has fallen by a fifth from a year ago. They expect that China, the world’s largest producer and consumer of pork, will produce 150 million to 200 million fewer pigs this year because of deaths from the infection. Last year 700 million pigs were slaughtered in China.

African swine fever, for which no treatment or vaccine exists, has spread to every Chinese province and region, and has also jumped the border into Cambodia, Mongolia and Vietnam.

What's with JPMorgan Chase?

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the regulator of national banks, says that, as of December 31, 2018 the bank held $2,212,311,000,000 ($2.2 trillion) in equity derivatives.This is 65.5 percent of bank trading in the derivatives market. You remember derivatives from the Great Recession?

According to the OCC, JPMorgan Chase lost $644 million on its equity positions in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Not only is JPMorgan Chase Bank NA engaging in risky stock derivative trades, but according to the OCC just 31 percent of these trades are centrally cleared. The other 69 percent are what are called over-the-counter or OTC derivative trades, meaning they are “bilateral,” or secret contracts between JPMorgan Chase and a counterparty with little daylight available to Federal regulators. That also would suggest that they are highly illiquid.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Do you believe this?

This appeared in June 2016 re Trump:

"An exclusive USA TODAY analysis of legal filings across the United States finds that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and his businesses have been involved in at least 3,500 legal actions in federal and state courts during the past three decades. They range from skirmishes with casino patrons to million-dollar real estate suits to personal defamation lawsuits."

That's about 100 a year or 2 a week. I have not heard or seen any comments by Trump quarters.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

We're having fewer kids

The CDC reports that the number of births last year dropped to its lowest in about three decades. Birth rates declined for nearly all age groups of women younger than 35 but rose for women in their late 30s and early 40s. Overall, the provisional number of births in 2018 for the United States was about 3.79 million, down 2% from the total in 2017. The finding marks the fourth year that the number of births has declined, after an increase in 2014.

The fertility rate has also declined. Last year it was 1,728 births per 1,000 women, a decrease of 2% from 2017 and a record low for the nation. The total fertility rate in 2018 was below what is considered the level needed for a population to replace itself.

Should we worry?

From Wolf Street